Many teens look forward to summer because they have more freedom from studies and more time to hang out with friends. But the 100 days of summer vacation also are the most dangerous for teenagers because they get into more car accidents during this time period.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says that the period between Memorial Day and Labor day warning includes the ‘100 Deadliest Days’ for teen drivers. Nearly 800 teenagers die in traffic accidents during this period across the U.S., according to AAA. Each summer month, an average of 261 teens lose their lives in traffic crashes -a 26 percent increase compared with the rest of the year.
Teens tend to get into more car crashes during summer because they are out of school and spend more time in cars. Meanwhile, more adults are on the roads for summer travel, as well. This year, AAA has predicted a 10-year high in travel for Memorial Day weekend because of a rebounding economy and lower gas prices that, barring drastic changes, should extend throughout the season.
During summer, teenage drivers tend to drive more aimlessly and later at night, when the risk of crashing increases, the National Safety Council says. There are often more teens in the car, too, which increases the number of distractions and the risk of an accident exponentially.
Nine young drivers ages 15 to 20 were killed in traffic accidents in Hawaii in 2013, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
AAA says the risk of death for 16- and 17-year-old drivers increases by 44 percent when carrying one passenger under 21, doubles with two passengers, and quadruples with three or more, when compared to driving alone.
The risk of a teen accident rises when they get behind the wheel of a sports car or small vehicle, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute. Vehicles with high horsepower tempt teen drivers to speed and drive more
Most car accidents are preventable. Deborah Hersman, president and CEO at the NSC, said that parents should establish ground rules and expected behaviors for safe driving.
Parental involvement improves the odds of teen drivers returning home safely.
From the NSC, AAA and TeenDriving.com, here are a few steps parents can take:
- Contract with your teen. The NSC offers a new driver contract you can fill out online (AAA has similar guidance), or you and your young driver can draw up your own agreement. Consider rules for always wearing seat belts, night driving, access to the car, curfews, behaviors that will not be tolerated, etc. Specify penalties for breaking the contract, and consider rewards, such as filling the gas tank or an extended curfew, for good behavior.
- Put your foot down. However you do it – contract, verbal warning, through a friend or another family member – let your teen driver know in no uncertain terms that they will lose all driving privileges at the first hint of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or any use of a cellphone or other electronic devices while driving. Don’t back down if it happens. Impaired and distracted driving are the two most dangerous behaviors. Add others, such as getting a speeding ticket, at your discretion.
- Limit passengers. Teenage friends in the car can be a serious distraction. Hawaii’s graduated license program limits the number of passengers that inexperienced drivers can carry. For example, a teen driver with a provisional license can carry no more than one passenger younger than 18 years old, unless he or she is a family member.
- Let them drive you. When the opportunity arises, ride with your teen. You’ll get a chance to see how well they drive and it will build trust. Also, they’ll be on their best behavior with you in the car. If there’s a difference between what’s appropriate and how they normally drive, the practice will do them good and may change some bad habits.
- Set a good example. Be a driver role model for teens who are learning to drive and for children who are even younger. They really do take their cues from you. Always wear your seat belt, stay within the speed limit, never use a cellphone while driving, be courteous to other drivers … you know: Be the kind of driver you expect a child of yours to be.